TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s initiative to revive masks has led to the revival of the artisans and has been successful in drawing attention of people towards the ancient folk culture.
The state government has taken various schemes that include providing training to give financial assistance to the mask artisans. Steps have been taken to sell them and they are kept at the Biswa Banga stalls.
Attempts will be made to sell the masks abroad. It may be mentioned that those who go abroad bring masks from South America, Africa, Myanmar and Mexico. Recently a team of students from the department of fine arts and social science of Stanford University visited south Dinajpur and took interviews of the mask artisans.
The Gamira mask, which is basically a wooden mask, is produced by the artisans in Kushmandi and is associated with the Rajbanshi community in south Dinajpur. It is connected with the Gamira dance.
The mask is made of sponge wood. The artisans first prepare a model from mashed paper. A piece of cloth soacked in mud is used. Bright colours are used when it is dry and then varnish is applied.
A senior state government official said many students from abroad had started visiting Kushmandi to interact with the mask artisans. Recently, a team of students led by Sumana Chatterjee, who studies in Kornel University, visited the area and made a documentary on them. Many domestic tourists are coming to the area just to see the making of the masks and hubs have been created where the artisans come and work together.
Gambhira dance is famous in Malda and is performed during the Chaitra Sankranti that takes place in April. The wooden masks are made from neem and fig trees and are produced by Sutradhar community. The wooden masks are given attractive colours.
The Dokra masks of Bankura have become internationally famous because of Gita Karmakar who has made various contemporary sculptures with this art form. She also got the President’s award.
Shola masks, which are used to make the face of goddess Durga are well known. The masks are produced in Murshidabad and are very popular throughout the country.
The masks of Bagpa dance are crafted from wood. They are very attractive and coloured in red, blue and white. It is also called Lama dance and performed by the Lamas. The state government is trying to revive the old and dying art. The Dooars Museum and Research Centre has been set up by Kajimal Golay, a research scholar. Banbibi pala masks in South 24-Parganas, Chau dance masks of Purulia are very popular.